I have a confession to make: I want Alberto cleared of doping charges. He won me over so thoroughly during last year’s Giro and seems so dedicated to cycling, that the thought of not seeing him in the peloton makes me sad. Moreover, I’ve come to like him and want him to be innocent. I don’t want his past podium wins to be nullified. I don’t want him shamed. I don’t want him pulled from the peloton. But this side of me that has come to love Bert wars with the side of me that says justice must be done- for no matter how that clenbuteral got in his system, it was there. And according to the rules (no matter how right or wrong they might be), if the drug is there, a ban must be served. The eternal optimist and Bertie lover in me wants to believe he is not a doper. And maybe it’s naive of me, but I do think he’s clean. But the fact of the matter is that clen was found in his system and unless he can prove how it got there, he should serve a punishment. But. That doesn’t stop me from wanting him to be cleared.
All posts by TheBloomingCyclist
Posted by TheBloomingCyclist on February 5, 2012
Once you’ve worked up the nerve to walk into a bike shop, you face your next challenge- actually making a decision. Some decisions are small- bike lights, saddle bags, gloves. Others are big- bikes, bike shorts, pedals, shoes. If you’re starting out from scratch, then you’re faced with the biggest decision of all- which bike to buy! First, it is important to understand that you can’t buy a bike online. I mean, you can, but I would imagine that only the most experienced cyclists can order a bike online and get exactly what they want. If you’re just starting out, you need to touch, feel, ride the bike. In my opinion, there’s not really even a reason to research bike brands online, because you don’t know what your bike shop is going to have. That’s not to say you shouldn’t do research on different bike brands, but it’s so easy to get overwhelmed with the choices and varieties- and if you’re like me, all those choices will make you want to give up. Most bike shops only carry certain brands anyway, but if you know what brands your store carries, you can do some research on those. However, I suggest just going into the store and seeing what they have. Bike stores don’t carry bad bike brands. Any bike shop worth it’s salt is only going to have bikes it’s proud to sell, which means no matter what you buy, you’re getting a good bike. Hopefully the shop will have a few choices in your size for you to ride, because I do think you should ride more than one bike before you decide.
Before you go into the store, though, you do need to decide why you want a bike, so you can get the right style.
There are quite a few sub categories of bikes, but I think most of them can be put into 4 categories: road bikes, mountain bikes, hybrids, and cruiser.
Best for: going fast, racing, paved roads, charity rides, fitness riding
If you want to go fast or race, if you plan on doing most of your riding on paved roads, if you want to do longer charity or century rides, if you’re riding for fitness, then a road bike is a good choice. It will go fast on smooth road, but it’s thin frame and thin tires aren’t ideal for anything less than a smooth road or path. They’re usually very light, which means faster riding and climbing, but that means they can’t really take a beating. A road bike can be too much bike for many people and the bent over, forward position can be uncomfortable and intimidating at first. These feelings quickly fad, however, and even road bikes come in simple designs and it’s easy to find one that is just enough bike for you. And, in my opinion, they look sexy as hell. One thing to keep in mind- there is very little reason for you to buy an all carbon bike unless you plan to race or if money is no object. An all carbon frame can offer more comfort on really long rides, as it absorbs road noise better than other materials, and it’s lighter weight might help you go a bit faster, but generally it is not worth the extra money for casual cyclists.
A subset of road bikes that is also very popular are touring bikes. They look very similar to a road bike, but usually have a less extreme position, wheels that are a bit wider and places to attach bags to the bike. They are designed to carry heavy loads, over long distances, with a slow and steady pace. They’re great if you want to do long, multi-day rides, and rides where you carry everything you need with you on your bike or for commuting.
Best for: off road riding, rugged terrain, really crappy street riding
Mountain bikes are pretty self explanatory. They have big, fat tires, so they’re awesome at helping you avoid flats and giving a cushier ride on rough terrain. But those fat tires really slow you down on smooth roads. In my opinion, unless you plan on doing some serious off roading, a mountain bike isn’t very practical for everyday life.
Best for: commuting, casual city riding, running errands, those who prefer a more upright riding position, light off roading
Hybrids offer a bit of both worlds- with fatter tires than road bikes, they’re better able handle unpaved trails and with skinner tires than mountain bikes, they allow for more speed on the roads. The fatter tires are better at avoiding flats than a road bike. They also have the more upright position of the mountain bike. A hybrid is another commuting alternative for those who prefer a more upright position to the touring/road bike forward position. However, because it’s a bit of both worlds, it’s not great at either. But it’s great for running errands, moderate trail riding, and commuting. If you plan to do long rides, train intensively, or get really serious about cycling, then a hybrid is probably not the best choice.
Best for: beach rides, flat trails, basic errands, cruisin’
With it’s oversized tires, totally upright position and single gear, a cruiser is perfect for those who just want to ride short distances in comfort. Because cruisers usually only have one gear, they’re best on flat, smooth roads (paved trails). They’re heavy bikes, but that means they’re durable and can handle a beating. Don’t expect to go fast or far on these bikes, but they make riding on the beach very fashionable.
So, that’s a very basic overview of the types of bikes out there. Once you can narrow down what type of riding you want to do, then you can narrow down what type of bike you’re looking for. If you just want a bike to run to the grocery store or take weekend picnics on the trails, a cruiser or a hybrid is probably the right choice. If you want to commute, a hybrid, touring or road bike is best. It’s important to think about the future as well. If you imagine yourself doing century rides, a road or touring bike is best, even if the drop handle bars and more forward position scare you. If you seriously want to loose weight, a road bike is also a better beat than a cruiser or hybrid. But if you don’t imagine yourself doing anything more strenuous that getting groceries or riding to work, a hybrid or mountain bike will work for you! Even though I was a beginner cyclist, I decided I wanted a road bike because I planned to do RAGBRAI and I was going to ride for fitness and fun. And I liked how road bikes looked😉
Now you gotta get into that shop, talk to the sales person about what you want, ride a bunch of bikes and see what works for you. If you’re just getting back into cycling after an absence, don’t let the drop bars and more aggressive position of the road bikes scare you off- you quickly get over that and learn to love it.
Follow me on Twitter for other spectacular insights to cycling: @bloomingcyclist
Posted by TheBloomingCyclist on February 3, 2012
This is the first part of a three part series where I share what my experiences and observations have been in the bike world.
Bike shops are intimidating. They seem more exclusive than regular stores, where you are only welcome with open arms if you speak the secret bike language. Someone less prone to intimidation than me would have no problem walking into a bike shop cold turkey and walk out with what they needed. Not me. I really have to work up courage to walk into a shop! It can only take one rude or condescending sales person to make the trip miserable. In addition, the people who work at bike shops are often very passionate about what they do (because with they kind of money they (don’t) make, they’re the only one’s who will work there). And sometimes that zeal can be seen as condescension, or it can make it hard to relate to a person who is not an expert like them. In general, I think those in bike shops are awesome people, but it doesn’t always seem that way at first glance.
So the key is to find a shop that you can be comfortable in. And that can be difficult. If you’re lucky, the local bike shop (LBS) near you will be able to offer that comfort. I can’t tell you what will make you comfortable- it’s a gut instinct you’ll have once you get inside and talk to someone. If you’re fortunate to live in an area with more than one LBS, hopefully you can find one that speaks to your needs and has a staff that can make you feel comfortable. Don’t be afraid to admit you have no idea what you’re doing! I’m terrible at taking my own advice in this area- I hate admitting a knowledge gap. But admitting when you have no idea what the shop person is talking about is better than buying something you’re not comfortable with! In that vein, don’t feel pressured to buy anything. Many people (me!) like to research purchases before committing, especially if it’s a lot of money. Do that if it makes you feel better! Get prices, brands, their recommendations, then go home and sit on it if you feel like it. Go online and compare prices and look at reviews, but I would recommend buying directly from the LBS if at all possible- unless there is a huge price difference or there is something specific you want that the shop doesn’t carry, spending a few extra dollars at your local LBS is totally worth it. Plus, instant gratification!
Now, for the second type of intimidation: other cyclists! It’s so easy to be intimidated by other cyclists, especially those consider themselves to be serious cyclists. I suffer from severe intimidation from other cyclists. I’m always worried that my gear will not “fit in” or will be looked down upon by others. BUT, that’s mostly because of my personality, more than actual reality. Yes, there are some who will judge you for not having the highest end, most expensive gear. But you probably won’t end up riding with those types much anyway. If riding RAGBRAI taught me one thing, it was that there is no wrong way to be a cyclist- if you’re comfortable and having fun, then it doesn’t matter what you wear or what you ride. I’m a huge fan of group rides and think those are a great way to have this point illustrated. I encounter so many different types of cyclists on those rides.Overall, on those rides, and elsewhere, I’ve found other cyclist to be friendly and accepting. I enthusiastically encourage group ride participation- it’s a great motivator and a great way to meet like minded folks. However, most groups rides tend to be heavily populated with males, and for women, that thought can be scary- for myself, when there are males around, I usually feel as though I’m trying to prove myself. Plus, I’m easily intimidated by cute boys😉 If you are like me, then I would suggest searching out all female group rides. I find I am more at ease going into an all female group rides, as I know there won’t be any cute boys. Even besides that, many women’s groups offer introductions to group rides, introductions to bike maintenance, etc. So, if you’re new to cycling, women’s groups can offer a lot of resources. Meetup.com and your local bike shops are great places to start to find group rides. In addition, there is probably a local cycling scene forum online where you could ask for recommendations and find suggestions.
I think the intimidation factor exists in everyone and it’s up to you to overcome those barriers. Hopefully, I’ve given you a few tools and enough information to help get you started!
I often dispense advice on twitter, so follow me at @bloomingcyclist.
Posted by TheBloomingCyclist on January 31, 2012
Ages ago I went to a forum put on by WABA, a bicycling advocacy group in DC, about female cyclists and how to get more women onto bikes. Now, I’ve never really identified as a “female cyclist.” I consider myself to be a cyclist who just happens to be female. The only barriers I experienced when getting into cycling were ones I created myself and I’ve never felt discriminated against or dismissed on my bike because I’m a female. I’m not saying there aren’t barriers for women getting into cycling because I didn’t really face any or that women who cycle aren’t discriminated against or dismissed because I’ve never felt that way. But for me, at my level, I’ve never felt dissed or dismissed because of my gender. Buying a bike had always been on mind, it just took awhile to work up the nerve to go to the shop and I’m a comfortably moderate cyclist who’s impressed enough with my own achievements that I want others to marvel at my work on the bike too. But as a cyclist who’s female, I thought I should attend this forum, just to see what all the fuss was about.
Truth be told, I didn’t take too much away from the forum. Mostly the panel talked about why there aren’t more women cycling, with only a bit of talk about how to change that. To me, it felt just like a rehashing of known issues.
I felt very similar when I went to a round table discussion at cross nationals in Wisconsin about women in cycling. There was a lot of talk about why women weren’t in cycling, but not a lot of talk about how to increase participation. I did learn some interesting things about what it means to be a female pro cross rider.
- They don’t care much about an increase in prize money. To get that money, you have to win and even if you do win, it will probably just be used to cover your travel expenses to get there.
- What they do care about is sponsorship. If they have sponsorship, they don’t have to pay for travel, gear, support, or entry fees out of pocket. Then they don’t have to draw on family funds to support their racing.
- They are only able to race if they’re in a relationship that respects and supports their racing habit. That support can come through being the primary bread winner, being handy with a bike wrench, watching kids while the mom races, etc.
Now, while I’m not interested in racing, nor am I much interested in getting women involved in racing, I was interested in the parallels I heard at the WABA forum. There was a lot of talk at both places about how time and intimidation were two big factors to overcome when it came to getting women involved in cycling. Time is not something I can help with. That’s a social problem, with the expectation that family and home is a woman’s responsibility. But I can help those women who want to find time, but aren’t sure were to start or are intimidated and overwhelmed with the choices and environment. I can do that by sharing my experiences. I’m going to break it down into three posts, because I don’t like huge blog posts- the intimidation factor, the “too many choices!” problem, and my continuing struggle with saddle. I’m doing this mainly because I’m tired of just talking about it and want to try to do something, even if it’s something as small as writing a blog post. I hope that by sharing my experiences, I can help other women overcome barriers either put in place by themselves or society and get them on bikes!
Posted by TheBloomingCyclist on January 30, 2012
I came home with muddy boots, muddy pants, and an achy body. But above all, I came home with great memories, new friends, and a happy heart. I spent the first weekend of the new year in Madison, Wisconsin, soaking up all that the Cyclocross National Championships had to offer.
I really had no idea what to expect, as this was definitely the biggest cross race I’d ever been to. I figured there would be big crowds, beer, and lots of cute cyclists. I was right on all accounts!
To be honest, I can’t say I was overwhelmed or in awe of anything- except maybe seeing in the flesh the cross stars I’d been posting on Tumblr all season. I’m not a good fan girl- I get shy, reserved and bit awkward around those I consider celebrities. I feel super awkward asking for autographs or pictures, as much as I want them. So, when I went to breakfast the morning I got in, and realized halfway through that Ryan Trebon was sitting at a table across the way and then saw Jeremy Powers walk in, I first went crazy inside with giddy excitement, then ignored them and pretended they’re ordinary people. Which is my normal MO. I actually really dislike this part of my personality, but I’m not sure how to change it. Because, let’s be honest, I don’t see a lot of famous people on a day to day basis. ANYWAY. Regardless of my awkward fan girl nature, it was amazing to see all the people I’d only seen on the Internet. Friday there was a roundtable discussion with some of the female racers to talk about women in the sport, so I got to meet Sue Butler, Mo Bruno Roy, and Meredith Miller. Then, there was a meet and greet with some of the big names- Jeremy Powers, Ryan Trebon, Tim Johnson, Zach McDonald, Cody Kaiser, Jonathon Page…
- Ryan seems more uncomfortable with his “star” status. Between that and his maybe more introverted nature, he’s a bit more awkward around fans. Jeremy’s more extroverted nature, his hyperness, and his comfort with the spotlight have made him a bit more comfortable with fan interaction.
- It was tempting to run around the course to try and watch it develop, but I found it was more enjoyable to find a spot and stay there for the whole race. Running around so you can see your favorite riders again is good fun, but I found it to be less stressful to hang out in one spot and watch the laps go by- you could stake a prime spot and not have to worry about missing them as they came around. It was almost more fun to cheer on the rider in last place than the guys in the front- they may be last, but they’re still way more awesome than I am just for being there.
- The course was BEAUTIFUL. I’m a midwest girl and I appreciate prairie and rolling hills and open sky, so this course was perfect for me.
- Next year, I’ll just come out for the weekend. While it was great to be there for 3 days, it wasn’t really necessary. I didn’t know anyone racing on the first day, and only 1 or 2 on the second day. It’s not quite as much fun to watch when you don’t know anyone racing and the crowds aren’t really big yet. So basically it was two days of checking out the course, doing recon, taking pictures, and taking in the atmosphere. While that’s awesome, it doesn’t need two days! AND next year I’ll leave on Monday. Leaving Sunday evening meant I had to miss the big after party after the races! Arguably the most important event of the weekend. Seriously bad planning on my part.
Best part of the weekend? I’m pretty sure I made my family into cross converts. My sister, brother, and dad all drove up from Iowa to watch the race with me and I think they were suitably impressed. I know I impressed them with my heckling- I’m a tame heckler by most standards, but yelling insulting encouragement at the riders was not something they expected. But they yelled as loud as I did at the riders going by at the stairs, barriers, and finish line. They knew no one, but it’s so easy to get sucked into the amazing atmosphere, with all the great fans that come out. And to top off a great weekend, we got our picture in VeloNews.
Molly did a good job matching my enthusiasm. John was a little more restrained. It’s not a golf game, John!
It was a fabulous weekend and I can’t wait to do it again next year.
Check out the rest of my photos here!
Posted by TheBloomingCyclist on January 23, 2012
To be honest, there really isn’t anything new or exciting about the RadioShack-Nissan kits. It’s basically the same kit with added red Radioshack stripe. Even so, I might like this kit a bit better than last year’s kit. I like the added color the red brings- it spices the kit up a little!
However, I am not impressed with what they did with the US National Champs kit. The stars and bars just looks smooshed and it looks odd against the solid red!
Overall, it’s a very simple kit. While I enjoy simple, it seems a bit too uninspired. And that’s really all the commentary I have about that kit.
Posted by TheBloomingCyclist on January 17, 2012
Well, well, well. Color me impressed. Garmin-Barracuda (formerly Garmin-Cervelo) (side note: how AWESOME is that name??) has managed to take a ho-hum kit and make it great again.
While there was nothing terribly offensive about 2011 kit, there was nothing terribly exciting about it either. Most people complained the color choice was too similar to Sky and Leopard and that the kit lacked the signature argyle.
I was mostly sad that they didn’t keep the blue and orange color scheme. However, I liked that they kept the Cervelo “e,” even if I felt the color scheme and design was a little unimaginative.
For their newest version, I applaud the reintroduction of the argyle, even if it is just the blue argyle (I, for one, loved the orange and blue combo of previous versions). In addition, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that I don’t care for black kits. I’m not sure why, I just find kits that are majority black to be uninteresting (the only exception is Sky). The white and blue is much more pleasing to the eye. I’m also very happy to see that kits are becoming a little less homogenous this year!
Posted by TheBloomingCyclist on January 12, 2012
The new 1t4i kit, while being a step down from the old Skil kit, is really not too bad. They kept the white and green of the old Skil kit, but I think the black a nice addition- certainly the black crotch panel helps reduce the risk of embarrassment! It’s a bit more bland that the Skil kit, but overall, I like the simplicity and the colors.
EDIT: 1t4i has also fallen victim to the horribly embarrassing team photo. It’s a disease we will never be able to eradicate, I’m afraid. (thanks @KimTMcCall, for reminding me of this!)
2012 Team Roster (more…)
Posted by TheBloomingCyclist on January 11, 2012
I’m disappointed. Team Type 1 took a great kit and pooped all over it. The 2011 kit was simple and classic. I liked the blues against the white and the understated logos.
Now…now it’s this.
They took the beige of Footon-Servetto, the lime green of Liquigas-Cannondale, the blue of their previous jersey, mixed it all together on an artist palette, then threw it on the jersey. To an unfortunate effect. The beige is really the worst of it, but if you take it out, you’re left with the blue and green, which is basically the Liquigas kit. Oy. I’d say this is the worst kit I’ve seen so far!
On a side note, I wonder what the goes through the rider’s head when they pull out a kit like this (or any kit they thought was ugly) and think, “Awesome. Now I have to spend the whole season looking like a fashion disaster.” I mean, imagine what the poor Footon guys had to go through! It’s not like they weren’t all aware that they were wearing one of the fugliest kits known to man. It had to be a bit demoralizing to get on your bike everyday and know that everyone in the peloton was thinking, “Thank god my kit doesn’t look like that.” Although…you can guarantee their kit and team will live on in the cycling kit history books for their willingness to humiliate their riders. Kinda like the Castorama kits. Or Mapai😉
2012 Team Roster (more…)
Posted by TheBloomingCyclist on January 4, 2012
I’ve always been a bit neutral about Katusha. I’ve never seen them do particularly well in races, they’ve never had any riders I’ve cheered for, and most of their names are too hard to pronounce. I was likewise ambivalent about their kit. I didn’t like it overly much, but I appreciated the way their kit was different but not ugly.
This year, however, the changes they’ve made have me taking notice. Red is one of my favorite colors (along with blue!) and I love how they’ve forgone the city skyline for solid red. I prefer the more solid red color to the mixed red and blue of the previous kit- it made it too messy, too jumbled. It’s a bright, cherry red that will stand out in the peloton. And putting white as the contrasting color makes it pop even more, unlike the BMC kits, which pair their red with black.
I also really like how they’ve kept their team name in their native Cyrillic script, instead of using the western alphabet. It makes it feel like a true Russian team AND makes me feel cool because I know how to say it.
They’ve done a good job with their national championship jerseys as well. I’m a fan of the white kit and the national colors look good!
Let’s also take a moment to appreciate how they’ve staged their team photos. Apart from the strange stormy sky (that seems to threaten a tornado), they look relaxed and natural on their bikes. Sometimes team photos can get darn weird.
This year, for example, the award so far goes to Astana. They have awkward beach photos
Vino giving a very forced thumbs up
and someone staring moodily through a bike frame.
But there’s still time for another team to outdo them. How could we forget the pillow shots of Quick Step last year?
To sum up- Katusha simplified their kit and made it that much better!
2012 Team Roster
Posted by TheBloomingCyclist on January 3, 2012